From The Desk Of The Orange Peels: Santa Cruz Mountains (The Hippies That Bested Bordeaux)

OrangePeelsLogoAs any fan of the Food Network knows, a few scrapes from an orange peel adds zest to a dish. San Francisco Bay Area indie-popsters the Orange Peels, according to master chef Allen Clapp, reinvented themselves by inviting more cooks into the kitchen. The result, Sun Moon (Minty Fresh), is a fully collaborative and very tasty effort. Last summer, Peels bassist (and Clapp’s wife) Jill Pries asked the other two band members—guitarist John Moremen and drummer Gabriel Coan—to drop by their Sunnyvale, Calif., home/studio. “It didn’t mean I was happy about it,” says Clapp, grown used to demoing the band’s material before presenting it to the others. “I told her I didn’t have any songs ready.” Clapp will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Orange Peels feature.

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Clapp: When most people think of California wines, they think of Napa and Sonoma. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of those growing regions and their palatial, Disneyland-esque tasting rooms, but south and west of those famous locations, you’ll find a mountainous region that arguably produces the best cabernets, zinfandels and pinot noirs on planet Earth.

Just west of where we live are the mountains that frame our sunsets. They’re visible from pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area, and they stand between the San Francisco Bay and the mighty Pacific Ocean. They’re called the Santa Cruz Mountains, and they’re where we spend a good deal of time hiking, traveling and scouting out new wineries.

Here you’ll find hippie oenophiles, rustic tasting rooms and mind-blowing, low-tech wines. Perhaps the best known is the legendary Ridge Vineyards, sitting atop Monte Bello Ridge not far from Skyline Boulevard. Ridge winemaker Paul Draper (no relation to Don) is perhaps America’s most treasured wine personality. Remaining proudly free of the kind of chemistry that produces short-lived, but blockbuster reds, Ridge’s approach is one of nurturing land and vine, and remaining as hands-off as possible.

The result is that its Monte Bello blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is one of the world’s best wines, period. The ’71 Ridge Monte Bello did well in the famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting in 1976. The tasting itself and the story of the coming of age of California wines is told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine.

In a 30th anniversary revisiting of the wines that were judged at the original Judgment of Paris, the ’71 Ridge took the cake. It literally had aged better over 30 years than any of the top wines in the world, and took first place in its category.

Next time you’re out west, skip the Napa castle tour and head for the Santa Cruz Mountains. You will not be sorry.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Orange Peels: Discovering Jim Ruiz

OrangePeelsLogoAs any fan of the Food Network knows, a few scrapes from an orange peel adds zest to a dish. San Francisco Bay Area indie-popsters the Orange Peels, according to master chef Allen Clapp, reinvented themselves by inviting more cooks into the kitchen. The result, Sun Moon (Minty Fresh), is a fully collaborative and very tasty effort. Last summer, Peels bassist (and Clapp’s wife) Jill Pries asked the other two band members—guitarist John Moremen and drummer Gabriel Coan—to drop by their Sunnyvale, Calif., home/studio. “It didn’t mean I was happy about it,” says Clapp, grown used to demoing the band’s material before presenting it to the others. “I told her I didn’t have any songs ready.” Clapp will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Orange Peels feature.

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Clapp: I was rehearsing with Larry Winther and Jill Pries in a bedroom in Redwood City, Calif., for an upcoming Allen Clapp & His Orchestra show the first time I heard the Legendary Jim Ruiz. My Minneapolis pen-pal, Rick Durgin (of the fabulous Bomb Pops), had mailed me the new single by the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group on the Minty Fresh label. I think it was 1995. I just remember dropping the needle on that cool grey vinyl and listening in stunned silence as the smooth samba grooves of “Mij Amsterdam” and “Minneapolis” filled the room. Wow. We wanted to play a show with these guys and gals. We wanted to be those guys and gals.

We did, very soon after, fulfill our dream of playing with them. We became friends with them on a West Coast tour in the summer of 1995 in the small clubs of California, everywhere from Santa Rosa to San Diego. Their debut album, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, was a smash hit in our little world, as was their follow-up, Sniff, two years later.

That was all we heard from Jim musically for a long time. We stayed in touch, went hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains when Jim was on a California vacation years later. And we talked a lot about music. More time passed. A couple years ago, Jim called me to ask if I’d like to produce his next album. I was floored, and a little scared. Just trying to compete with the brilliance of his back catalog was kind of daunting.

After working out the details, we decided to make the album in a house instead of a proper studio. Somehow, we procured the use of a Minneapolis mansion with a huge parlor room, perfectly placed overdub and isolation rooms and a three-story spiral staircase, which we used for natural reverb. Jim, his wife Emily (drums) and Charlotte Crabtree (bass and vocals) are the core of what is now the Jim Ruiz Set. The group was augmented by Minneapolis rock royalty, including Peter Anderson, Mike Crabtree, David Salmela, Peter Robelia, David Schelzel, Jim Ouska, Brian Tighe and Allison LaBonne. The Jazz Butcher himself, Mr. Max Eider, even flew in a guitar track from across the pond—the splendid solo on ““Neo-Acoustic Ambassador.”

That was a magical week last summer. The day-long sessions were capped off with evening bike rides with Jim and Emily through the back streets of Minneapolis, great food and more than a few Belgian beers.

Here’s what we came up with: Mount Curve Avenue by Jim Ruiz Set on Mystery Lawn Music and Korda Records. Look for it coming on glorious 12-inch vinyl later this year on Shelflife Records. Look for them at the Chickfactor 21 festival in Brooklyn this June.

Video after the jump.

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Live Review: My Bloody Valentine, Paris, France, June 5, 2013

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In space, no one can hear you sigh.

In the late ”80s and early ’90s, My Bloody Valentine radiated dreamy vocals muffled through a thick veil of cobwebs. The band warped densely distorted chords till it whirlpooled downward into a black hole.

Then, abruptly, the quartet set us adrift to ponder the enormity of the universe, while it contemplated how many angels could fit in his navel.

Two decades after 1991’s monolithic Loveless, the band has finally released a follow-up: this year’s m b v. The new tunes range widely: from Loveless-like whale-song dirge (“She Found Now”) to frilly drum ’n’ bass dementia (“Wonder 2”). The driving “In Another Way” even has a Madchester shuffle beat and a jerky riff that could attract a chorus of barking seals.

Listeners typically have one of two reactions to such music: sobbing in admiration or curling up in the fetal position in horror. This evening, in legendary 19th-century music hall Le Bataclan, there was a good mix of both.

The drum stutter intro to “Only Shallow” elicited an ecstatic shriek from the audience. The group’s performance was visceral and gorgeous. On m b v’s “Only Tomorrow,” Kevin Shields plucked a judiciously lumbering guitar line that cut through the din to hypnotic effect. On the wall behind the band, each song was enhanced by a projection of trippy footage that would delight armchair existentialists, were the images not so colorful.

In fact, the members of MBV are what goth poseurs ought to aspire to be: not insufferable blank slates obsessed with death, but sensitive souls oppressed by beauty, rendered dizzy and isolated by the spinning of the Earth.

True, MBV may sound like a live owl tossed into a wood chipper or a flotilla of Harleys riding a rollercoaster. Imagine Donovan affixing a tremolo bar to a chainsaw. Those of us who are converts—we unhappy few, puking to the choir—can forgive the uninitiated’s amateurish mal de mer, their rookie squeamishness. They can’t be faulted for being blind to the perfection of pain.

The set closed with the deafening “You Made Me Realise.” The song’s so-called “holocaust section” of white-noise drone lasted 10 glorious minutes and approximated an A-380 attempting to land, sans landing gear.

Once the song’s last tendrils of feedback retracted, the capacity crowd struggled to the exit. One young woman waited out the exodus on the floor. She sat immobile, her arms wrapped around knees brought up to her chest, her face buried in her thighs. She may have been weeping.

MBV was exquisite tonight. Nausea never felt so good. Vomit never tasted so sweet.

—Eric Bensel